New air link makes Croatia ideal winter getaway

In winter, deprived of the colour and charisma of people from planes, the islands and coastal resorts of the Mediterranean can end up looking a bit forlorn, just like our gardens. It's for this reason that airlines re-focus their efforts on flying to destinations popular with city-breakers and skiers.

This week easyJet launched a new service from Gatwick to the Croatian capital. On the face of it this looks like the basis for a short stay in Zagreb, but it also gives access to a choice of interesting resorts, Opatija and Zadar, on the Croatian Riviera.

A new motorway that sweeps past Zagreb's airport enables visitors easily to reach Opatija – now only 90 minutes away. When Austria-Hungary was a flourishing concern, Opatija was the winter retreat of choice for wealthy Viennese: it was the closest bit of coast to the capital, just 200 miles as the imperial eagle flies. The resort is set on a curving piece of shoreline that climbs quite steeply into forested mountains, and its hillside setting means that a great many properties have a sea view out over the Kvarner Bay.

Zadar, on the opposite site of the Bay (and two hours' drive from Zagreb), is a different matter. Far older, and once the capital of all Dalmatia, it nevertheless manages to feel much more contemporary. Tourism is just a part of its portfolio. This is a place of students, of shoppers, of entrepreneurs and visitors from the offshore archipelagos, seeking the bright lights. Built on a short string of islands, Zadar's first settlements were eventually merged to become a single bent thumb of land ringed with ramparts and reached through a chain of fortresses, with a superb natural harbour on its inland side.

Zadar likes to describe itself as the California of Croatia. It is growing fast, and attracting young entrepreneurs. Andnext month, non-stop flights from Stansted resume. (If you book by midnight tomorrow, Ryanair has plenty of availability from 27 March onwards at just £16 return, including tax.)  

Source: The Independent